5/25/2014 Wood - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The wood of Coast Redwood is distinctively red.
Color
In species which show a distinct difference between
heartwood and sapwood the natural color of heartwood is
usually darker than that of the sapwood, and very frequently
the contrast is conspicuous (see section of yew log above).
This is produced by deposits in the heartwood of chemical
substances, so that a dramatic color difference does not
mean a dramatic difference in the mechanical properties of
heartwood and sapwood, although there may be a dramatic
chemical difference.
Some experiments on very resinous Longleaf Pine specimens indicate an increase in strength, due to the resin which
increases the strength when dry. Such resin-saturated heartwood is called "fat lighter". Structures built of fat lighter
are almost impervious to rot and termites; however they are very flammable. Stumps of old longleaf pines are often
dug, split into small pieces and sold as kindling for fires. Stumps thus dug may actually remain a century or more
since being cut. Spruce impregnated with crude resin and dried is also greatly increased in strength thereby.
Since the latewood of a growth ring is usually darker in color than the earlywood, this fact may be used in judging
the density, and therefore the hardness and strength of the material. This is particularly the case with coniferous
woods. In ring-porous woods the vessels of the early wood not infrequently appear on a finished surface as darker
than the denser latewood, though on cross sections of heartwood the reverse is commonly true. Except in the
manner just stated the color of wood is no indication of strength.
Abnormal discoloration of wood often denotes a diseased condition, indicating unsoundness. The black check in
western hemlock is the result of insect attacks. The reddish-brown streaks so common in hickory and certain other
woods are mostly the result of injury by birds. The discoloration is merely an indication of an injury, and in all
probability does not of itself affect the properties of the wood. Certain rot-producing fungi impart to wood
characteristic colors which thus become symptomatic of weakness; however an attractive effect known as spalting
produced by this process is often considered a desirable characteristic. Ordinary sap-staining is due to fungal
growth, but does not necessarily produce a weakening effect.
Water content
Water occurs in living wood in three conditions, namely: (1) in the cell walls, (2) in the protoplasmic contents of the
cells, and (3) as free water in the cell cavities and spaces. In heartwood it occurs only in the first and last forms.
Wood that is thoroughly air-dried retains 8–16% of the water in the cell walls, and none, or practically none, in the
other forms. Even oven-dried wood retains a small percentage of moisture, but for all except chemical purposes,
may be considered absolutely dry.
The general effect of the water content upon the wood substance is to render it softer and more pliable. A similar
effect of common observation is in the softening action of water on paper or cloth. Within certain limits, the greater
the water content, the greater its softening effect.
Drying produces a decided increase in the strength of wood, particularly in small specimens. An extreme example is
the case of a completely dry spruce block 5 cmin section, which will sustain a permanent load four times as great
as a green (undried) block of the same size will.